The Challenges with Microsoft Teams Calling Plans
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft Teams usage has surged to 115 million daily active users, a 50 percent jump from the 75 million reported users six months ago. With so few of us able to meet in person for nearly a year now, virtual meetings have become the new norm. Video conferencing technology is making it possible to connect people from all over the globe in record numbers. Microsoft Teams is among several popular communications and collaboration platforms, such as Zoom, Skype, and Google.
The incredible demand for virtual gatherings is prompting these video conferencing companies to continually add more features to their existing capabilities and make it easier and more secure for people to connect. Enriching telephony functionality within the collaboration platforms is just one way they are trying to compete with each other in providing a more scalable, enterprise-worthy voice platform.
Even though limited, Microsoft Teams Calling Plans were decidedly more advanced than Zoom’s in the beginning. Zoom was satisfied in being solely a collaboration platform. But as competition increased, Zoom is investing now, too, in the communications aspect of their platform, enhancing its capabilities to at least match those of Teams.
The need is great for enhanced calling features, given that so much of the workforce is dispersed these days and likely will continue to be post-pandemic. Global Workforce Analytics predicts that up to 30 percent of the workforce will be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021. Organizations need more than collaboration capabilities; they need the enterprise voice capabilities they’ve always had – ones that are seamlessly integrated into a unified communications and collaboration platform.
In order to provide a more complete business phone system, Microsoft is giving users a few options when it comes to voice. You can either choose to use Microsoft Teams Calling Plans with a Microsoft Phone System, or use Direct Routing with a Microsoft Phone System.
What’s Missing from Microsoft Teams Calling Plans
The addition of calling features makes it easier for Teams users to communicate, but there are limitations and increased costs when it comes to Microsoft Calling Plans. For instance, your business may still be under contract with your existing telephony provider. Switching to a Microsoft Calling Plan may result in an early termination penalty. There are gaps in international availability and porting numbers from your previous carrier to Microsoft Teams is no easy task, particularly because Microsoft offers little support.
Other issues are that chances are, your current calling plans cost significantly less than what a similar plan from Microsoft will cost you. Microsoft Teams Calling Plans are metered with a limited number of minutes per user for inbound and outbound calls. Any additional minutes are billed per minute. Depending on the number of users and their calling requirements, those extra minutes can add up quickly yet are not easily budgeted for since they are so variable month to month. Calling Plans are also rigid, making it difficult to adjust the plan to your exact needs. You end up paying for users that may not be using the plan.
If you use a Microsoft Teams Calling Plan, you are also bound to use a device that is compatible with Microsoft Teams, such as a mobile device or headset with a PC or laptop that has the downloaded Teams app, or specific IP phones that work with Teams. Calling Plans are notoriously limited in enterprise calling features as well, such as CRM and ERP integrations, advanced call routing and queuing, and advanced reporting. You have some calling features, but likely not all of the ones your users and incoming callers expect and require.
In addition, there is the issue with having to manage so many separate vendors. With such a complicated network, you will need to oversee your internal team, third-party integrators, phone carriers, and Microsoft. It is a lot to juggle, especially for a business without network expertise or adequate resources.
The Microsoft Teams with Direct Routing Option
Direct Routing is a less expensive option, allowing you to keep your current telephony provider for your lines and minutes, or shop around for a lower-cost plan that has the support and flexibility you need. Microsoft partners with certified providers to provide Direct Routing solutions, ensuring your phone system is tightly integrated with the Microsoft Teams platform.
From the outside, Direct Routing seems complicated, but its function is relatively easy to understand. It simply refers to the process of routing Microsoft Teams calls directly to a traditional phone network (PSTN) using a Session Border Controller (SBC) and SIP Trunks. In essence, Direct Routing allows you to use Microsoft Teams as a robust, enterprise-level PBX.
SBCs aid in securely transferring data between your networks and protecting your networks from breaches. SIP Trunks are used to connect a business phone system, the PSTN, and the internet. When you receive an incoming call, the SBC mediates a session with your phone system and passes it to Microsoft Teams and then the person being called. Similarly, outgoing calls go through the SBC, the existing PSTN, then the person you are calling.
With Direct Routing, you have more flexibility to fit your network and calling plans to your exact needs, adjusting them as your business expands or contracts. You only pay for what you use.
Your users will not be limited with the number of domestic and international calls they can make or receive, nor will they be restricted to certain global regions. Leaders can easily budget for communications and collaboration costs, with no surprises or added costs due to usage. Instead of settling for expensive Microsoft Teams Calling Plans that are limited in features and functionality, you can enhance your instance of Microsoft Teams with a full-fledged voice platform.
The most simplified and cost-effective way to augment Microsoft Teams is to work with a single, experienced provider who can manage both your telephony network and your Microsoft applications. They will work with the equipment and technology you currently have and/or bring in whatever devices are required to connect and enhance your network, such as SIP Trunks. As a certified Microsoft partner, a provider will be able to help you easily migrate from your existing platform to a robust, voice-enabled Microsoft Teams solution that connects your people across devices, channels, and the globe.